By George Piggott
Twenty years have slipped away almost unnoticed since the initial discussion and final establishment of the Phiroz Mehta Trust. The Trust was founded in 1988, arising from the wishes of a group of students associated with his work.
Subsequently, a committee meeting, chaired by the founder, the late Phiroz Mehta, our guide, took place at Phiroz’s house, ‘Dilkusha’, on the 23rd January 1988. Those present were Rosemary Monk, Michael Piggott and George Piggott. Robert Mehta and Stephen Marshall were unable to attend, but it was a foregone conclusion that they would be included as future Trustees when charitable status was finally secured.
A name for the Trust was sought, but after submissions and consideration it was decided the final name of the Trust would be agreed at a later date. Draft aims and objectives were agreed, including that the Trust should have an odd number of Trustees.
An important moment during the meeting was the offer by Rosemary Monk to house the tape recordings of the group talks, to hold future meetings there on a regular basis, plus a possibility to house some of the collection of valuable books.
The writer would like to reflect at this stage, to emphasise the fact, that without that commitment by Rosemary Monk, this article and the events relevant to the past 20 years may not have been possible.
Stephen Marshall, a partner in a firm of solicitors, and a selected Trustee, submitted the final stages of the Trust draft to the Charity Commission in November 1988. This was accepted by the Commission and the Trust was duly registered in late January 1989.
Once again we were fortunate to have the professional expertise of Stephen, and his time in negotiating this trickily worded legal documentation to a successful conclusion. The fact that there was no charge was another blessing.
Since that formation in a moment of time, the Trustees have always pursued a united policy, within the bounds of the original mandate. The aims and purpose of the Trust, as our deeply respected founder envisaged, have been strictly adhered to. This is paramount, encompassing all decisions.
Solutions, decisions, and final conclusions have not always been straightforward. Individual Trustees reserve the right to express their views according to their particular understanding at that moment in time. This has flowered into quiet, but sometimes lively debates and discussions, with the writer, as would be expected, ‘putting his foot in it’ on various occasions. But that was a foregone conclusion anyway – on being selected!
Over the years all meetings have been interlaced with spontaneous humour and laughter, a good balance to the serious nature of our projected purpose. Right attitude, tolerance, and a continuous harmonious atmosphere have never wavered. Perhaps this ‘spirit’ of Phiroz Mehta was there without our awareness.
Time and space do not allow the complete history of the Trust to be detailed. Suffice to say, we have had our ‘ups and downs’, like all similar organisations, in trying to promote the work of Phiroz Mehta to the general public.
Fortunately, in the latter years, advancing global technology in the computer world gave us the golden opportunity to fulfil our original obligations. Yet again, the Trust was in a unique position to take advantage of this phenomenon, by having Michael Piggott with his own computer company, Computer & Software Services Limited (CASS), situated in Sidcup, Kent. One of the main assets of his team was a young computer specialist, Tim Surtell, who was then working part-time whilst studying at the University of Greenwich. When opportunity allowed, they installed a system to store and reproduce the complete catalogue of Phiroz Mehta’s talks onto CDs, an enormous advance on audio tapes.
When the decision was taken to set up a Phiroz Mehta Trust website, Tim was able to express his flair and natural ability in this specialised field. He pursued this with great skill and enthusiasm to accomplish what is today our main attraction. Now, several years later having successfully gained his university degree, he has become a full-time website developer.
Since the closure of CASS, the Trust has engaged Tim Surtell to produce the Trust Newsletter and manage the website on a permanent basis, and it has undergone various improvements recently, not least in giving visitors the ability to listen to all of Phiroz’s talks online.
We, the Trustees, feel he does an excellent job and carries out these tasks with the best interests of the Trust at heart, and we appreciate his skill and dedication.
The Trust is fortunate in that each appointed Trustee is an asset in their own right, bringing their particular experience and skill to add potential to the team, with Robert Mehta, now Treasurer, keeping a keen eye on finances, and Bill Grice always on cue to provide the humour and help support the publishing of the Trust Newsletter.
Geoffrey Pullen has travelled widely especially in Asia and provides invaluable information when required. He has many contacts, which proved very useful when the Trust considered the need to expand in this ever-changing world, and to liaison with other organisations with similar interests, which may benefit all concerned, but at the same time, retain their individual independence.
During the latter part of 2008, letters were exchanged, preliminary meetings were arranged, and formal discussions took place to explore the possibilities of this new venture. At the time of writing, no plan has been specifically decided, and it will require further reflection and discussion and careful consideration by all members before any definite move in this direction is contemplated.
The object of the exercise of course is to broaden our horizon, and as caretakers, to offer to as many people as wish the opportunity to listen to or read the work of Phiroz, but to retain our place, be versatile, perhaps united in a common cause of compassion, with a collective vision in understanding the needs of humanity, of those drowning in a sea of suffering and chaos.
The alternative would be to remain small, independent, isolated, relying on the Internet to provide the bulk means of contact, other than the weekend meetings and summer schools, held annually.
Finally, the writer admits, the future of the Phiroz Mehta Trust is impossible to visualise or predict. The chapters completing this story will unfold only in the fullness of time.
On a personal note, accepting the request to write an article on the anniversary of the Phiroz Mehta Trust became a challenge, but it was a privilege to be asked. Whether it does justice to our late founder, a man respected by all who came into contact with him, whose scholarly attributes and wisdom seemed boundless, is a question beyond contemplation. But fingers are crossed!
The same applies to my fellow Trustees, whom one admires for their impartial but steadfast commitment to the original mandate. Their responsible attitude and integrity are beyond question, and as such it is not only a pleasure to be one of the team, but a blessing!
As pointed out already, an odd number was required to conform to the submitted draft. One hopes this demanding position was executed by the writer, by being present at all meetings, not getting in the way of the business in hand, or causing a disturbance!
To conclude, may we travel together, without assumptions, expectations, or inflated ideals, mindful, in quiet acceptance of As-Is, the reality free of illusion, with every intake of breath being in the presence of ‘NOW’.
Thank you for your time.
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 22nd February 1976
Let us consider together some of the implications of the transformation of our mode of awareness of existence, which takes place through living the religious life. In culmination, the worldly mode of consciousness is completely changed into the transcendent mode. This does not mean that it is another mode from the worldly mode. We must understand this very carefully because the religious life is life in the world in terms of true humanness — of human perfection, if we may so call it. What has happened is that all that characterises the worldly mode, our ambitions and fears and anxieties, our perplexities, our ignorance and all that, has disappeared with this transformation of the worldly mode, which has these characteristics, into the transcendent mode. But we are conscious of the world, this same world of which we were conscious in the worldly mode before the realisation of human fruition and fulfilment. As the outer world would put it, the man of the world is transformed into a being who is free of illusions and delusions, whose life is a saintly life. One does not, therefore, practise saintship as if it were a technique or a particular mode of living. The saintly life becomes the life of that man quite naturally and spontaneously. He cannot help living that way. When I look at him I say, “Oh, that man is a saintly man”. By contrast the average man of the world is a worldly man. But for the saint, himself, there is no sense of contrast in his mind with regard to himself. In fact, with regard to himself, one may almost say that he is quite unselfconscious. This is one of the great changes that takes place.
Now there is an outstanding characteristic which differentiates ourselves in the worldly mode from ourselves in the fully human mode, which we can quite legitimately call the transcendent mode, and that is in the manner in which we attend to everything, to every person, every event and every situation. First and foremost we are no longer aware in terms of separation from any person, any thing and any situation. We are fully awake to the fact that the situation completely contains us. Our self-containment, which in our worldly state separates us from the world, is now a self-containment in which the word ‘self’ has grown in meaning in such a way as to include the totality. But if it includes the totality, the sense of the separate ‘I’ has completely vanished. It is no longer a case of ‘I’ and ‘you’ or ‘him’ or ‘the situation’ or ‘the country’ or the object you are looking at, etc. The separatist ‘I’ consciousness has completely vanished. One is aware in terms of the whole and one attends to the whole completely and totally. Now, first and foremost, this implies the utter transcending of the birth-death process in our mind and consciousness. It does not mean oneself, the living person will not physically die, of course one will, but the manner in which we are ordinarily conscious of the birth-death process is completely transcendent.
Now, we all know from our ordinary every day experience that, for us, every thought or mood or action or experience begins, proceeds and comes to an end. We associate our self-consciousness, the ‘I am I’ consciousness (which is actually a misconception) with beginning, proceeding and ending of our every thought or mood, etc., and so we experience life in terms of time. The time-consciousness undergoes a complete transformation when attention is total and complete. In ordinary time- consciousness there is always a lag in our awareness of what is happening. The thing arises, it happens and afterwards we become aware that it has happened, and we are always catching up with its proceeding. As we commonly say, time passes by. In this process we undergo all kinds of reactions to the process because the process is constantly sending out impulses, stimuli, to us. When we receive the stimuli, whether they be in terms of sight, hearing, touch or whatever, the brain reacts back at those stimuli. This is basically due to our being aware, in this mode of time, of the movement of time which is the state of mortality; beginning, proceeding, dying, birth, death, birth, death - a constant succession of births and deaths in our own mind and consciousness. This is the real meaning of the Sanskrit word Saṁsāra. The word has been mistranslated as ‘a series of lives’. It is not ‘a series of lives’, it is a series of awareness of that which is in terms of mortality - beginning, ending, birth, death, a specific “separate” unchanging entity, and each stage as something separate. In fact we are atomistically conscious only, and not conscious in terms of the whole field simultaneously. But when one is totally attentive there is no time lag in the awareness of what happens, there is absolutely no time lag.
If you look carefully at the time process, birth, then movement, then growth and then death, there is a great distance. But in actuality, and this is true of the entire universal process physically, there is a vibrating at such an extraordinary speed that consciousness cannot differentiate between the beginning and the ending, as we call it. Now, when you cannot differentiate like that you are quite unconscious of the actual happening, but when the mind is sufficiently purified, so that there are no reactions to the time process, then this beginning and ending is seen as a vibrating of life in eternity. Then you are actually aware in terms of eternity and you no longer feel the life process as a beginning or birth and an ending or death. You are so responsive to the continuous changing process that you are actually in tune with the transformation from moment to moment, a transmutation from moment to moment. The life of the universe is creative energy in action in eternity, not in time. Because I am unawake, incapable of responding to this, I mistranslate it as a beginning, proceeding and a dying in unidirectional time. This is simply due to the fact that I am unable to give total, complete attention to the life process as it goes on. This is the difference between mortality and immortality. All the common-or-garden meanings of immortality are sheer nonsense. When your mode of awareness has undergone this transformation, so that you are attentive completely and totally to the totality, now in the instant, then you are at one with that transformation process and you do not separate out any more, in terms of the time process, the time movement. We impose the concept of time, and awareness in terms of time, upon the actual fact of eternity here now. It is a creative action in eternity and this creative action in eternity has neither birth in it nor death in it. The absolute all is undergoing continuous transformation. If the absolute all is undergoing continuous transformation there is nothing which is annihilated, nothing which is destroyed, nothing which is made and brought into being as something new. The totality is there always as the totality, and being there always in totality it is not fragmented. The fragmentation takes place because of my mode of awareness, my mode of consciousness. I am unawake to the totality. I am unable to be conscious, in terms of totality, to attend totally and completely. As long as I separate self, as long as I separate one thing from another, as long as I am unawake and unaware of the complete interrelationship between the multitudinous so-called separate things which make up the totality, I am unawake to their relationships and their interactions, I am aware in terms of fragments and broken bits. I have broken up the totality in my consciousness. I cannot avoid it, I cannot help it, at the start, this is how we begin. We begin with time and we do not get rid of time. Time becomes transformed for us in our awareness into eternity.
Now just consider carefully, ordinarily one reacts constantly to the whole life process. One likes what is happening, one dislikes what is happening. One feels secure and pleased, one feels insecure, anxious, in fear. All those reactions completely vanish if you are totally attentive in the immediate, creative Now. Because when you are totally conscious like that, there is no sense of a separate otherness in relation to anything and everything. Then there is no fear. This has been put very tersely in one of the great Upaniṣads, but I doubt if anyone has succeeded in expounding it lucidly in intellectual terms. This sense of otherness is due to the fact that one is unable to give total and complete attention to what is called the other. All the sense phenomena, sights, sounds, tastes, touches and so forth, tend to produce an analytical split-up awareness of what is going on. To give you a simple example of this in our own daily lives, if the body is well and healthy and there is nothing wrong with it, your background self-consciousness of the body is a whole consciousness. The body is a whole, ‘This is me’, and its continuing life process is the ‘me’ you do not feel or think about it in terms of parts. But if you get a headache or something, then the sense of separateness or something other has come into the situation. This is what happens with the mind and in consciousness. The body comes to maturity, the body can be healthy, we all experience that, but the mind almost never comes to maturity in the members of the human race. It is always in this fragmented condition, this split-up condition. Therefore, there are all these reactions, all these fears, all these strange intellectual explanations, and you pick and choose the one which pleases you, the one that satisfies you for the time being and say, “I believe this”. When you can attend totally there are no beliefs, no fixed convictions, no mental fixations of any sort in the mind. The mind is utterly transparent and, to use the words they use so much in India particularly, the mind is empty. What is it empty of? It is empty of all the obstructions to total awareness expressed through total attentiveness. So, if one can be totally attentive like that, one is aware, one is actually living in terms of immortality. There is no longer beginning and ending, you are with the universal process from split second to split second. This does not mean that you are unconscious of differentiation. Differentiation there is. There are innumerable particulars, limited, finite things, persons, events and so on, but because we are unawake to their complete interrelationships we are conscious of them as so many separate things. And when we cannot relate the separate things together in the right way our sense of wholeness, of holiness, has disappeared. It is this release of the sense of wholeness, of holiness, of completeness, of totality, which is the whole task of religious living. And this religious living, therefore, can be carried out only in the world, not away from the world, because this is our sphere of action. It is our school. The world itself, from day to day, is our school in which we learn, if we have been helped to understand something of the art of learning, and this is where attentiveness and mindfulness play the most important part. You are really mindful of what is happening all the time. Particularly be mindful of all the reactions which take place in our ordinary worldly mode of awareness, the mode, in terms of time, which of course is also in terms of sorrow, of anxiety, of ignorance, of perplexity, of fear and all these things, of duality, of multiplicity. Be aware of the reactions which spring up in the brain and observe them very quietly and coolly with the intellect, and very intimately, totally accept these reactions warmly with the heart, because if you reject them and say, “Oh, no, no, this is not the right thing, this does not lead me to fruition and fulfilment”, the cure cannot be effected. One has to see both ways the reactions, as they take place inside oneself, holding them at a distance, for examination like a scientist observes them. You have also to take them right inside yourself, with your eyes closed, and feel them as the creative artist feels. Now, how does the creative artist feel? When any person takes something right into his own psyche, and feels it intensely as part and parcel of himself, a transformation process takes place there. The impure is transformed into the pure. That which is ill understood, which ties up the intellect in knots, becomes disentangled and everything straightens out. This is the way insights come, this is the way of the creative artist. The two are combined together, both are necessary, one alone will not do. Take in ordinary life a creative artist, a man with genius. He gets an inspiration but if he has not got the cool intellectual grasp of it and the technique of working out that inspiration, he will produce no music, no poetry, no painting, nothing at all. You have to have both aspects there. The critical externalized observation, which is analytical, sees the relationship of parts, and this something from within, which is feeling and non-analytical, integrates that which the intellect sees at a distance and, lo and behold, a thing of beauty comes into being. It is this kind of process which goes on inside us when we live the religious life in the right way.
So in observing the reactions you discover your own inner nature, “This is what I am”. When we discover our own inner nature, from moment to moment, we must not let that discovery be a fixation. One is caught up in a mood of fear or depression or anger or whatever, but do not say, “I am angry, I am a person who is characterised by anger for ever and ever”, because the mood changes. Your state, your mode of reaction, changes. It undergoes changes from feeling very angry and horrible towards whomever it may be, to feeling affectionate and kind and generous. So what is the truth? The truth of the matter is that one goes through changing states all the time. Time and change, in that separatist manner, go together and, therefore, the solution of the problems raised by that process can never come from that level. Any healing, in the true sense, any integrating, always emerges from a transcendent depth because it is in the transcendent depth that the integrative creative activity goes on. These are deep things in connection with the consciousness process. We do not understand it well enough in the ordinary way.
So now let me come back to this matter of attentiveness. When attentiveness is total and complete and one is fully aware and awake in terms of wholeness, then one is living and functioning in eternity, not time. Therefore, the past, as we commonly call it, has lost its grip upon us. Consider how much sorrow and other things besides, we go through when memories of the past come back to us. How much hate is roused up when we recall the evil things done to us by somebody, undeservedly, as we always say. It may probably be considerably undeservedly but it never is a hundred per cent undeservedly, there is always something on both sides. This is what memory does, the memory of the past produces all kinds of reactions. When attentiveness is total, the memory of the past is not suppressed, it is not wiped out, but what happens is this — or something like this. These memories of the past are impressed upon the actual cells of the brain and perhaps other parts of the body too. We hold our total history in our own living bodies and, whatsoever may be the conformation of the molecules and cells (which compose our brains and our bodies), they hold in their particular conformation this memory of the past. When you transcend the time element, when the mind and heart, here now, are utterly pure and strong, that conformation undergoes transformation. That conformation of the brain cells itself undergoes change. This is one of the points associated with the physical practice of the discipline of yoga. The bodily postures and the breathing contribute towards this transformation, provided one approaches the whole thing utterly purely and not in order to gain anything for self, because that is a force which spoils the real transformation. Extraordinary changes take place which affect not just the mind alone but which actually affect the body too. So when attentiveness is total, when you are actually functioning in eternity, all that psychic energy which was an ill expression of one’s own life process, that ill expression can no longer take place. This transformation, at last, takes place so that this energy is liberated into the power for pure expression, for right expression. There is no question of undergoing a specialized technique in order to bring about purification. The process of purification is a natural process. I cannot take any of the cells of my brain or body and wash them in some new detergent which is guaranteed to wash them whiter than white. It cannot be done that way. It is through the observation, through the understanding, and through the total attentiveness that this force for separating or splitting-up is out of the situation. That same energy in me, myself, which splits up, no longer splits up. That energy, now, is integrative only, it is utterly purified. So in total attentiveness a process of purification is going on constantly. And you know how important this process of purification is, because unless there is complete purity there is no possibility of true communion. And the state of communion is the state of total attentiveness. It marks the fact that one’s mode of awareness has undergone this complete transformation from the worldly mode of awareness (which is self-centred, self-oriented and all the rest of it) into the transcendent mode. Into the transcendent mode where there is no fear. There is no sorrow there, there is no pleasure-pain duality there. That is expressed as the peace of God which passes understanding, as the bliss or ānanda of Brahman. These phrases have been used, but what they actually mean, in psychological fact and expressed in reasonably lucid intellectual terms, is very difficult to get hold of. But what has happened? I, the ordinary man of the world, am at last truly a man. And remember that the word ‘man’ means the creative thinker. The word ‘human’ means the happy creator. These meanings are identical with what man ascribes to God. Man is potentially that which is represented in the word God.
So I have tried this afternoon to take us into the depths of what is implied and what is involved in this matter of total attentiveness, of right mindfulness, and of the transformation of the worldly mode of awareness of existence into the transcendent mode, which is the purely and fully human mode.
A super talk. Thanks.
Tom, 1st March 2019
A super talk. Thanks.
Tom, 1st March 2019
By Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Imagine a sheer, steep crag, of reddish appearance below, extending into eternity; on top there is a ridge which looks down over a projecting rim into a bottomless chasm. Now imagine what a person would probably experience if he put his foot on the edge of this ridge which overlooks the chasm and found no solid footing nor anything to hold onto. This is what I think the soul experiences when it goes beyond its footing in material things in its quest for that which has no dimension and which exists from all eternity. For here there is nothing it can take hold of, neither place nor time, neither measure nor anything else; it does not allow our minds to approach. And thus the soul, slipping at every point from what cannot be grasped, becomes dizzy and perplexed and returns once again to what is connatural to it, content now to know merely this about the Transcendent, that it is completely different from the nature of things that the soul knows.
It is not known when or where this talk was given by Phiroz Mehta, but it appears to date from the 1950s. It does not appear to have been recorded
One of the most significant events of the 20th century was the voluntary, constitutional relinquishment by Britain of power in India. Two new members of the Commonwealth came into being; the Dominion of Pakistan, and the Sovereign Democratic Republic of India.
No just appraisal of modern India is possible without a brief reminder of the background. India’s past goes back no less than five thousand years of civilised city life. She is richly experienced in the political, economic and social fields; her culture compares not unfavourably with any other world culture; and in the sphere of philosophy and religion she holds a position altogether unique.
Many different races have entered the subcontinent throughout the millennium. Of all these, the British have had the most important and far-reaching influence on the land and its people, due mainly to two reasons:
Thus after the 1780’s Britain restored law and order in India, step-by-step. She introduced British justice; stable government, modern education and medicine; the English language; railways, posts, telegraphs; developed new industries and untapped mineral resources (like tea, coffee, tobacco, jute, rice, coal, manganese, petroleum, tungsten, aluminium, chromium, etc.); built major ports (this was begun before the 1780’s of course); and unified the subcontinent politically and economically.
In short, Britain transformed an old world order into a modern state in major ways, and brought it into line with the modern world. Such then is the legacy of the past to Pakistan and India.
Today, these states have various political and economic problems. Kashmir; evacuee property; canal waters; devaluation etc. Each is in need of a much larger and more highly trained administrative personnel. The rehabilitation of refugees, housing, health, and food and population, are other big problems, calling upon the resources, skill and hard work of each state.
But since 1947 some noteworthy successes can be recorded:
And in the sphere of Education and Research, progress is much faster than before 1947.
One terrible problem taxes the subcontinent — grinding poverty. Before 1939, the average income per head per annum was £4. 7s. 6d. Today it is little over £18, but all prices have gone up by more than three times. Soil for subversive influences! But India has no sympathy with Russian political theory and practice, which is foreign to her traditions and culture, discredited by its inhumanities, and unacceptable to a democratic, liberal and religious people.
India, instead, approves of Britain’s parliamentary democracy, her social developments, her justice, her team spirit and her capacity for team work, and her respect for individuality, for liberty and freedom within the very proper and flexible framework of Law.
India particularly appreciates the significance, and magnificence, of her act of August 1947 — unique in world history. Hence British prestige stands higher than ever in India today, and there is the inward feeling that everything possible should be done to increase friendship, understanding and goodwill between the two countries, and express it in every possible way in practical terms.
The kingly man is unlike other men because he keeps his heart. Its keeper is love, its keeper is courtesy. If a man loves others, most men will love him; if he respects others, most men will respect him.
When someone is cross and rude to him, the kingly man will question himself and say, “I must have been wanting in love, I must have been discourteous, or how could this have happened?” If he finds that he has shown love and that he has shown courtesy, and the other is still cross and rude, he will question himself and say, “I must have been insincere.” If he finds that he has been sincere, and the other man is still cross and rude, he will say, “This is merely a man gone wrong. Then what is there to choose between him and a beast?”
The kingly man has a lifelong yearning, but not one morning’s sorrows. A yearning, yes, he has one: Shun was a man, I too am a man; Shun was a pattern for all below heaven and a heritage for after ages, I am still nothing but a villager! This is his cause for yearning.
What is his yearning? To be like Shun, this is all. But the kingly man has no sorrows. He does nothing against love, he does nothing against courtesy. If sorrows come one morning, he does not sorrow.
Awesome and very true!
Jon-Mark, 5th May 2018
Awesome and very true!
Jon-Mark, 5th May 2018
By Ralph Waldo Emerson
No man can learn what he has not preparation for learning, however near to his eyes is the object. … God screens us evermore from premature ideas. Our eyes are holden that we cannot see things that stare us in the face, until the hour arrives when the mind is ripened — then we behold them, and the time when we saw them not is like a dream.
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